This spring our NAZ athletes hit a big milestone. We won our 100th race!! In fact, we won our 99th (Krissy Gear at the BAA Mile), 100th (Stephanie Bruce at the Big Sur 12k), 101st (Krissy in the steeple at the On Track Fest), 102nd (Adrian Wildschutt in the 10,000 at the On Track Fest) and 103rd (Wesley Kiptoo at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon). The journey to 100 wins started all the way back in 2014 when Ben Bruce won the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon on February 2–our very first victory. Ben would go on to win four more RnR Marathons that year, and overall he contributed 10 wins to our total before moving into his role as an assistant coach/pacer.
After Ben’s win in New Orleans, we got on quite the roll. We won our first national title later that month when Amy Van Alstine took top honors at the USATF Cross Country Championships in Boulder, Colo. Then Kellyn Taylor won our first international title, taking the victory at the NACAC Cross Country Championships in Trinidad and Tobago. Kellyn would go on to win six total races that first year, including the USATF 25k championship. All told, seven different NAZ athletes won a total of 18 races in 2014. We won big races like the aforementioned national championships, as well as several smaller races that served as stepping stones for the future. Back then, we couldn’t be as picky as we can now about where and when to race. If our athletes had a chance to win, and take home some prize money, we were all for it.
That philosophy began to change in 2015 when HOKA came on board as our title sponsor. With the extra funding our athletes had a base compensation package, as well as bonuses for fast times and top performances in major track, cross country, and road races. We were also able to recruit some of the top athletes out of the NCAA that year including Ryan Dohner, Scott Fauble, and Craig Lutz. Those three, along with original NAZ members Ben Bruce and Scott Smith, won the 2015 USATF Club Cross Country team title for NAZ. Amy Van Alstine won the individual title that same day (with Rochelle Kanuho in third) making the meet a major highlight of the year.
Our first Olympic Year was 2016 so the focus was very much on the U.S. Marathon Trials in February and the U.S. Track and Field Trials in June. That said, we did still win a couple of big races including another title at the USATF Cross Country Championships (Craig Lutz) and at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon (Scott Smith)–two of our five total wins for the year. Our final win of 2016 was Kellyn Taylor’s victory at the Scottsdale Half Marathon–our 40th all-time. Over the course of the next two years, we’d go on to win 14 more times including multiple victories from Stephanie Bruce who was now fully back after having two children, and from newcomer Aliphine Tuliamuk–a harbinger of things to come. In what was perhaps our most successful stretch of races to that point, from May to July of 2018, Aliphine won national titles at the half marathon and 25k distances, Kellyn won the Grandma’s Marathon in a course record (2:24:28), and Steph won the national title at 10k (with Aliphine in second). The women of NAZ were not messing around.
The winning continued in 2019 and into the beginning of 2020. In a 12-month stretch we won 11 times including victories from Alice Wright and Matt Baxter, who had joined the team in 2018 and 2019. Scott Fauble and Aliphine won the men’s and women’s races at the 2019 Gasparilla Half Marathon. Matt won the New Zealand national title at 5,000 meters. Steph and Kellyn tied for first at the 2020 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon–the only tie on our list of victories. But it all led to the win that was really the culmination of the first six-plus years of our program–Aliphine’s victory at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. After five top-seven finishes between the Marathon Trials and the Track Trials in 2016 (including two fourths), finally making the Olympic Team, and doing it with a win, was a sweet, sweet moment for the entire team.
The Pandemic put the brakes on the amazing start to 2020, but we did rebound to win four more times later in 2020 at closed events with no fans. 2021 provided more opportunities than 2020, but things still weren’t completely back to normal. Nonetheless we managed to win eight more times including Alice Wright winning the Athens Half Marathon in Greece–the sixth country we had won a race in. Finally, in 2022, races returned in full force…and so did we. Eight different NAZ Elite athletes combined to win 14 races, including national titles for Aliphine (the USATF 25k), and Steph (USATF 10k), and our first national championship on the road for our men–Futsum Zienasellassie’s victory at the USATF Marathon Championships.
By the beginning of 2023 we were sitting at 91 wins all time and the countdown to 100 was on. We knocked four of them out in January thanks to NAZ rookies Krissy Gear and Abby Nichols. Krissy won three different track races while Abby grabbed another. She added one more at the beginning of February, followed by Lauren Hagans who took home top honors at the Cardiff Kook Run (a race we’ve won three times total). Aliphine won #98 at the USATF Half Marathon Championships (our 16th national title). Showing off the versatility of our roster, our 99th win came at the BAA Road Mile when Krissy blasted away from a very good field to win by three seconds. It was just a matter of time at this point.
Perhaps fittingly, our 100th win came courtesy of one of the original nine NAZ Elite team members from way back in 2014. Steph, at 18 weeks pregnant, jumped in the Big Sur 12k the morning of the Big Sur Marathon where she was serving as an ambassador for HOKA and cheering for her husband Ben. Well…she won! And no, it wasn’t a national title or a major marathon, but a win is a win. And like all 99 that came before, it helped bring the NAZ Elite to the people. Numbers 100, 101 and 102 all came the very next weekend so we have to included those here as well; because they were all pretty darn special. First, Krissy pulled off a huge upset at the On Track Fest in the women’s steeplechase, winning the race in 9:23.55 (a 15-second personal best). That same night, Adrian Wildschutt won the men’s 10,000 in a blazing 27:23.10–a personal best, a team record, and a South African national record. Finally, the next morning, Wesley Kiptoo won the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for the second year in a row, and set the course record for the second time as well (1:01:21).
So there you have it! 103 wins in just a little more than nine years. Thank you so much to all of the fans that came along for the ride. Here’s to 100 more!!
FUN FACTS ABOUT OUR 100 WINS:
28 different NAZ athletes have won a race: Matt Baxter, Aaron Braun, Ben Bruce, Erin Clark, Tyler Day, Ryan Dohner, Eric Fernandez, Krissy Gear, Julia Griffey, Lauren Hagans, Ryan Hill, Rochelle Kanuho, Wesley Kiptoo, Maegan Krifchin, Rory Linkletter, Craig Lutz, Scott Fauble, Matt Llano, Abby Nichols, Danielle Shanahan, Scott Smith, Kellyn Taylor, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Amy Van Alstine, Sid Vaughn, Katie Wasserman, Alice Wright, Futsum Zienasellassie
Most wins: Kellyn Taylor (16)
Winningest Year: 2014 (18)
Most Wins By Distance: Half Marathon (34)
National Titles: New Zealand 5,000 meters (1- Matt Baxter), New Zealand Road Racing Championships (1- Matt Baxter), USATF Cross Country (2- Craig Lutz and Amy Van Alstine), USATF Club Cross Country (1- Amy Van Alstine), USATF Club Cross Country Team Title (1- Ben Bruce, Ryan Dohner, Scott Fauble, Craig Lutz, Scott Smith), USATF Half Marathon (3- Stephanie Bruce, Aliphine Tuliamuk x 2), USATF Marathon (1- Futsum Zienasellassie), USATF Marathon Olympic Trials (1- Aliphine Tuliamuk), USATF 10k (2- Stephanie Bruce x 2), USATF 25k (3- Kellyn Taylor, Aliphine Tuliamuk x 2)
States We’ve Won Races In: 23!! Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington
Countries We’ve Won Races In: 6 – Canada, Costa Rica, Greece, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, United States